Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Literature and Science
Code ENGL754
Coordinator Prof GJ Lynall
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2020-21 Level 7 FHEQ Second Semester 15


The module aims to enhance understanding of and stimulate interest in the relationship between literature and science in the Renaissance and long eighteenth century. Science is considered in its broadest definition, including medicine, technology, and pseudo-sciences such as alchemy. Students will read a wide range of texts (in dramatic, poetic, and prose forms, and including scientific or medical writings) from the early modern period, and will consider how they pay attention to emerging ways of knowing, the scientific principles of observation and experiment, and rival narratives of nature. Students will also gain a critical awareness of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of literature and the history of science.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Students will gain the ability to read, analyse, interpret and compare with competence and independence a wide variety of literary and historical texts related to science.

(LO2) Students will gain an advanced knowledge and systematic understanding of the scientific and ideological aspects of literary texts and how they can be situated within appropriate cultural and social contexts.

(LO3) Students will gain a critical appreciation of the ways in which texts can be situated within literary and scientific history, including issues of genre, influence, and creation and reception.

(LO4) Students will gain an advanced knowledge and critical awareness of current and new literary, critical and theoretical debates.

(LO5) Students will gain a comprehensive and practical understanding of techniques for accessing electronic and bibliographic sources.

(LO6) Students will gain the ability to use scholarly referencing and bibliographic conventions appropriate for advanced literary scholarship.

(LO7) Students will gain research skills enabling critical evaluation of different research methodologies and selection of appropriate methodologies.

(LO8) Students will gain research skills to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively in order to generate new and independent research.

(S1) Students will gain a systematic knowledge and critical awareness of current debates and new insights within the field of literature and science.

(S2) Students will gain advanced critical and analytical skills in relation to diverse forms of discourse.

(S3) Students will gain advanced literacy, interpersonal and communications skills, and the ability to present sustained and persuasive written and oral arguments.

(S4) Students will gain the ability to autonomously design and self-direct a research project that brings together historical and literary approaches.

(S5) Students will gain the ability to comprehensively understand and apply a variety of theoretical approaches to literature.

(S6) Students will gain the ability to handle complex information and argument in a critical, creative and self-reflective manner.

(S7) Students will gain practical research skills to retrieve information, assemble bibliographic data, and critically evaluate, sift and organize material independently.

(S8) Students will gain the ability to use IT and other relevant tools and resources to present written and oral work to a professional, scholarly standard.

(S9) Students will gain advanced skills and experience in selecting and using electronic and/or archival resources for planning and undertaking research and writing.

(S10) Students will gain organisational skills in managing time and workloads, and in meeting deadlines.



The module syllabus will cover a variety of Renaissance and long eighteenth-century texts related to science, medicine and/or technology. Where appropriate, readings of literary texts will be supplemented by extracts from works of natural philosophy, natural history and/or medicine. Primary texts may include Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610); Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626); Margaret Cavendish’s The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666); John Gay’s Three Hours After Marriage (1717); Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726); John Gay’s ‘The Pin and the Needle’ (1727); Samuel Butler’s The Elephant in the Moon (pub. 1759); Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Content will be available to students via the library and VLE/seminar handouts. Students will be expected to read primary and secondary material in preparation for each seminar, and also expected to carry out independent resear ch, to support both seminar preparation and formative and summative assessments.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

The module is taught by fortnightly, two-hour seminars that will focus on set primary texts and include discussion of relevant critical debates and contextual issues in the field of literature and science. Individual feedback sessions will also be offered to students in order to facilitate discussion of the formative assessment and preparation for the final critical essay. Attendance at seminars will be recorded in line with SotA policy on attendance. Self-directed learning time will be spent on: preparation for seminars and reading of primary texts; recommended secondary reading; exploration of additional scholarly resources in preparation for the formative and summative assessments.

Seminars planned to be delivered face-to-face, but will pivot to remote synchronous delivery if necessary (due to Covid-19).

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours   12


Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 137


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Critical essay.  3000-3500 words    100       
Essay. Contextually-informed close reading of short passage. No resit. Not anonymous.  1000-1500 words         

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.